Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson still faces 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault or inappropriate behavior and there’s the ongoing investigation by local authorities, but this week may start to shed light on the QB’s future.
The district attorney in Watson’s criminal investigation plans to present her case to a grand jury on Friday, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports. That is the same day as Watson’s deposition is set in the civil cases.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, told Pelissero that a request to delay the deposition until Monday was denied, so the QB will plead the fifth. The timeline for the civil depositions was previously agreed upon last year by both legal camps.
Hardin said that he is doing what any attorney would do: “I’m not going to allow [Watson] to testify [in the civil cases] until the grand jury completes its investigation.”
The NFL Personal Conduct Policy states “a player may be placed on paid administrative leave pursuant to the Commissioner Exempt List” when he is formally charged with a crime of violence — like using physical force or a weapon to injure or threaten another person, sexual assault, animal abuse or conduct that poses a genuine danger to others — or if the formal charges come in the form of an indictment by a grand jury.
While Watson is reported to be pleading the fifth in his civil suits, the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy states that isn’t an option when it comes to talking during a league investigation.
“Because the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination does not apply in a workplace investigation, the league will reserve the right to compel a player to cooperate in its investigations even when he is the target of a pending law enforcement investigation or proceeding,” the Personal Conduct Policy states.
So while there could be clarity on Friday regarding one major aspect of Watson’s legal troubles — the criminal investigation — let’s look back at what we know.
After a 0-4 start to the 2020 season, the Texans fired head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien. While the former head coach and GM did have a somewhat controversial offseason heading into the four straight losses, O’Brien had been with the team for more than six seasons and had won AFC South four of the last five seasons.
In September 2020, Watson and the Texans agreed to a four-year, $160 million contract extension, and in his social media post, Watson thanked the Texans organization, coach/general manager Bill O’Brien, and a few more.
After giving a QB the franchise tag and firing the coach and GM he had a connection with, one would think he would be kept in the loop regarding franchise decisions, but a few months later the team had an agreement in place for a new general manager they intended to hire.
The QB seemed to take issue with the process of the GM’s hiring process — specifically, the Texans brass said Watson would be included in the process, but he wasn’t — and Watson hinted he might demand a trade.
Watson quietly raised his concerns to teammates and word that he would request a trade began circulating because of Texans brass and the hiring process — it was widely reported that a trade request was Watson’s way to ensure his views are respected by ownership.
Watson requested a trade from the team later that month — before any accusations of sexual misconduct surfaced — and has not played a snap since the first civil suit was filed on March 16, 2021. He remained on the inactive list during the 2021 season.
Between March 16, 2021, and April 14, 2021, plaintiffs attorney Tony Buzbee filed 23 lawsuits on behalf of his clients that accused Watson of sexual misconduct and sexual assault during massages.
When Watson’s legal camp fought to have the names of the women accusing him made public — arguing that keeping the names of ‘Jane Doe’ anonymous is unlawful — one woman dropped the civil lawsuit, leaving the total at 22 civil suits.
The NFL told the Texans it had begun an investigation of its own on March 19, 2021, and Houston Police Department received a report on April 2, 2021, and began investigating the QB. At the time, Hardin said the development is “long overdue,” because the 22 women were not named publicly at that point.
It wasn’t until later court battles that Hardin’s fight to have Buzbee release his client’s names was successful.
Between the two legal camps sending previous email chains claiming the other camp was looking for $100,000 in hush money or when Watson’s camp shed light on a ‘Jane Doe’ who they believed filed a suit but also had tried to blackmail the QB by demanding $30,000 in exchange for her ‘indefinite silence’, this has been an inclement journey.
While the QB has denied any wrongdoing from the beginning, and trade talks and deadlines have come and go while he remains inactive on the Texans roster, Friday’s presentation to the grand jury should begin to shed some light.
New Texans head coach Lovie Smith said last week that he has “no idea” if Watson will be on the Texans’ roster next season but said a QB of the 26-year-old’s caliber needs to play for one of the league’s 32 teams, The Clemson Insider reports.
“I just know Deshaun is an excellent football player,” Smith said, per ESPN. “Excellent football players need to be playing somewhere in the NFL. Hopefully, that will happen and if it’s not with us it’s somewhere else and I’m sure … as I see in this situation, both of us eventually are going to benefit from the situation and I just can’t wait for that to speed up a little bit.”
Check back with OutKick for updates.
New PointsBet Sportsbook users can make their first bets risk-free up to $2,000. If the bet loses, PointsBet will refund you in site credit. New users can lock in this offer NOW by clicking this link.